F9 ★★★

In 2017, I wrote that the Fast & Furious series, having transitioned from something about street racing to a multi-ethnic James Bond franchise, had “reached its late-period Roger Moore moment.” Apparently I was four years early, because here is its Moonraker. Dom (Vin Diesel), Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and company are enlisted to prevent the activation of a device that can control all world computer systems—and pits them against Dom’s estranged brother Jakob (John Cena). After two decades, the series has grown thick with characters and sub-plots, resulting in an over-stuffed narrative that has to find room for all of these people plus flashbacks to Dom and Jakob’s formative youth. Fortunately, director Justin Lin has returned to the series with a flare for action direction that wasn’t always on display in his earlier installments, resulting in some wonderfully over-the-top set pieces, including a chase through the streets of Edinburgh and the creative employment of some high-powered magnets. Lin and his screenwriting team decide to be almost comically self-aware of both the preposterousness of the things these people survive, and the way viewers can turn repetitions of the word “family” into a dangerous drinking game. But when you’ve reached the point where you’re literally launching cars into space, it’s a fine line between enjoying that preposterousness, and wondering why one of the world’s craziest action franchises builds its sentimental story beats around the emoting skills of Vin Diesel.